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COVID-19 Vaccine and Allergies: What You Should Know

COVID-19 Vaccine and Allergies: What You Should Know

Torrance Memorial Physician Network’s Dr. Robert Glazer answers top questions about what people with allergies need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Can people with allergies get the vaccine?

Yes. If you have allergies (even severe) to foods, pets, pollen, latex or oral medications is still advisable to get the Covid-19 vaccine

Are allergy sufferers at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19?

No, a history of allergies or allergy symptoms are not reasons to avoid the Covid-19 vaccine.

Should I get the vaccine if I have had severe allergic reactions?

If you have had an allergic reaction to other vaccines or other types of injections (see below for non-allergic reactions), including rash, hives, facial swelling, wheezing, or trouble breathing, you should contact your physician to determine if getting the Covid-19 vaccine is advisable.

Who should not get the vaccine?

There are very few reasons for absolutely not getting the Covid-19 vaccine. The reported risk of a severe allergic reaction called ‘anaphylaxis’ is exceedingly rare (a handful of cases in millions of vaccine doses administered). If by chance a person has an allergic reaction (see below for non-allergic reactions) after the first dose of the 2-dose series, the 2nd dose is not advised. Secondly if you have a rare allergy to Polysorbate or Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) you would not get the currently available Covid-19 vaccines (this ingredient is contained in the current vaccine). The federal government carefully monitors on-going vaccine safety even after the vaccines have been released for public use.

Fear is a common reason for people to elect not to get this (or any federally approved) vaccine. Bear in mind the decision not to get vaccinated must be weighed against knowing the risks of getting the disease and then getting the subsequent complications of the infection, or, spreading the infection to someone vulnerable.

What ingredients are in the vaccine?

You have probably heard the term ‘novel’ applied to this coronavirus. The same can be said of the Covid-19 vaccines currently approved. Unlike other vaccines which need the actual viral particles, or require ‘culturing’, these vaccines only use tiny pieces of the genetic code of the virus. Therefore, they can be manufactured far more quickly and in much higher volumes. It is our body’s response to the ‘protein spikes’ these gene pieces make, that makes us immune to the Covid-19 infection. Remember, there is no Covid-19 virus in any of the approved vaccines.

What is a vaccine allergy?

It is important to understand the difference between an allergy and a ‘side-effect’ from a vaccine. A true allergy is the body’s immune reaction to a product contained in the vaccine injection. The symptoms of an allergy generally are rash, hives, itching, and in the worst case anaphylaxis. In contrast, a side effect from getting the vaccine involves a non-immune response including soreness at the injection site, or low-grade fever and flu-like body aches the next day. The latter side-effects are an indication that the body is responding to the vaccine.

What are common causes of a vaccine allergy?

As mentioned above true vaccine allergy is rare. An allergy to a vaccine means the body has had a previous allergic reaction to the vaccine, or there is an allergy to another component in the vaccine.

What might happen if I have a reaction to the COVID vaccine?

Side-effect reactions to the vaccine, if there are any at all, are generally mild, or flu-like and resolve after a day with rest, fluids, and over-the-counter pain medication. If employed, a person may elect to stay home from work the day after the vaccine injection.

If I have a reaction to the first dose, can I have the second dose?

If you are to have the two-dose series of the Covid-19 vaccine, and you only had the ‘side-effect’ reaction(s), to get the full value of protection from the vaccine it is advised to get the second dose, on schedule.